The government is allocating £20m of new funding to charities and community groups fighting loneliness. The Co-op Group’s charity, the Co-op Foundation, is one of the main partners in this programme and will deliver £2m of this fund.
The Building Connections Fund will include £5m allocated by the government, an additional £5m from the Big Lottery Fund and £1m from the Co-op Foundation.
The initiative comes in response to one of the recommendations of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, which insisted on tackling loneliness across all ages.
Launching the fund, prime minister Theresa May said: “Feeling lonely or isolated can have a profound and devastating impact on people’s lives – it can affect anyone of any age and from any background. But just as loneliness can affect any of us, so any of us can help to overcome it. The new funding set out today will make a big difference, helping more people to establish and maintain connections.
“This will build on work already going on, including through the second Great Get Together this weekend, which will see people up and down the country celebrating the strength of their communities. This is just part of Jo Cox’s legacy, and I am determined we continue to take this forward. That’s why we need to do all we can to tackle loneliness, and our forthcoming strategy will build on today’s funding.”
The Co-op Foundation will use the funding administered to focus on supporting projects which tackle loneliness among young people. The projects will build on the mutual’s campaign to address loneliness, which was launched 18 months ago.
The Co-op Group’s ‘Trapped in a Bubble’ research with the British Red Cross revealed that one in three young people felt lonely “often” or “always”.
Allan Leighton, chair of the Co-op Group, said: “The Co-op knows through its own research that loneliness is not the preserve of the elderly, it can affect people at different life stages. Through my involvement with the Co-op Foundation I’ve seen how it has brought attention to the widespread, but long-overlooked issue of youth loneliness.
“I’m delighted that the Foundation is partnering with the government on the Building Connections Fund, to invest £2 million in projects that bring young people together, develop their skills and help them get more involved in positive activities. Through this we will learn more about what works in tackling some of the root causes of long-term loneliness, helping young people live healthier, happier lives.”
Community groups and charities will be able to apply for funding through the for the Building Connections Fund from July 2018, with grants available until the end of March 2021.
Jamie Ward-Smith, chair of the Co-op Foundation, said: “The Co-op Foundation is working to connect and empower 5,000 young people to tackle loneliness in their communities. Our new match funding partnership with the Government, announced today, will help us build on this, extending our network of partners and reaching even more young people. We believe youth loneliness is best tackled at community level, by working with young people to overcome the stigma around this issue and helping them shape their own solutions.”